Stryper and Queensryche go Surf-ing at legendary ballroom

In music there are three types of venues. There are horrible venues, there are good venues and then there are historical venues- the ones you have to visit and see a show at in your lifetime and if you don’t you regret it. One of those venues is the legendary Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s the last place played by legends Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson. They played the Surf Ballroom’s Winter Dance Party on February 2, 1959 and at 12:55 in the morning, boarded a plane in Mason City, Iowa, which crashed and killed everyone on board. This tragedy was justly tagged “The Day the Music Died” because many believe it was the end of an era and that rock and roll music would never be the same again.

On January 27, 2009 The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has since named The Surf Ballroom a historical landmark and ever since then the Surf holds a commemorative “Winter Dance Party” concert to celebrate the legacy of the three rock pioneers.

Numerous legends have played the Surf Ballroom including Slash, Vince Neil of Motley Crue, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick and more and the entire building looks just as it did in 1959, enshrining the memory, aura and element of the Surf as it was when the three legends played there.

Upon entering the Surf Ballroom, any true rock fan who understand the history behind the venue, will be instantly moved as they have numerous memorials around the building to encapsulate the memory of Holly, Richardson and Valens. The pay phone Holly used to call his wife on the fateful night is locked behind a glass door for fans to see, replicas of the original posters from that night are on the walls and a giant plaque hangs on the wall telling about the history of the venue and what it means to the history of rock music.

It’s definitely a moving experience just setting foot in the building and when you see everything they’ve done to commemorate the people who graced the stage, you don’t say much, you just look and admire.

The two latest artists to take the iconic stage of the Surf Ballroom are Stryper and Queensryche, who recently played an 80’s metal show that took everyone back in time and proved bands from that era still have what it takes to dominate the live stage today.

Stryper took the stage first and have a different look than many people remember. Once draped in yellow and black stripes, the band now carries a more mature yellow and black look to their apparel with yellow gothic crosses and other symbols on their clothes rather than the traditional stripes.

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Although their latest record, No More Hell to Pay, just released in November and has been dubbed To Hell with the Devil part 2 by many, the band played just two songs from the new album- the title track and “Marching Into Battle.” The rest of the set was loaded with Stryper classics that made the band famous and rocked the house.

Frontman Michael Sweet’s voice is as strong and immaculate as it was in 1986 and he can hit the high notes better than ever; he’s also in the best shape of his life.

They opened with “Abyss” from To Hell with The Devil  and went straight into “Sing Along Song” which was followed by “To Hell With the Devil” which many thought would be the closer and often is.

Sweet was impressively funny as well while interacting with the crowd- telling them that he got on a plane to fly to Iowa and everyone thought he was Rick Springfield- “I’m not Rick Springfield, he’s in Des Moines tonight. Again, I’m not Rick Springfield” after which guitarist Oz Fox started playing the intro to “Jessie’s Girl” which got a huge laugh from the crowd.

Sweet also joked about the band’s old classic look, asking if anyone in the crowd had tall hair in the 80’s and told one of the guys in the crowd “No you didn’t, you did not, you did not- guy in the red sweatshirt with short hair,” which got a huge laugh from the crowd. He also mentioned that a girl in the crowd was holding up a picture of them from the 80’s and that it was “Not cool, do you have one of us now?”

He also joked that he had gone to get a haircut earlier in the week and told them to cut off an inch and they cut off four, which the crowd appreciated as well.

With every song the fans could have possibly wanted to hear, plus a killer cover of KISS’s “Shout it Out Loud” as well as their famous Bibles that they tossed into the crowd, Stryper proved once again that some bands from that era are still relevant and are better than they ever have been.

Queensryche had the tough duty of headlining and following Stryper’s insane performance and they did more than just deliver- they took the stage and owned it.

Many fans in attendance were eager to get their first exposure to Todd La Torre as frontman and they got their money’s worth. Any fan of Queensryche who has been critical or skeptical of La Torre taking over for this version of Queensryche- who many feel is the only version of the band- just need to go see them live. When the band takes the stage it would be easy to mistake La Torre for Geoff Tate- they sound almost identical.

The man is one of the best frontmen in all of metal and his voice sounds as close to classic Queensryche as you can possibly get. If you were to close your eyes you’d think it was the classic lineup- which eases the minds of anyone who’s been bitter or unsure about the lineup change.

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While there were a few technical difficulties to start the set- La Torre’s microphone went out during the opener- the band showed why they’re so great and why they’ve been in the game for so long by rebounding quickly and with ease, so much so that most fans didn’t even notice.

With how much the band has been through over the last year or two, they showed no signs of anything negative whatsoever and were true professionals, showmans and musicians on stage and everyone in attendance got the real Queensryche at their absolute best.

With an absolutely stunning, showstopping and impressive performance at the Surf from both bands, there are no signs of stopping anytime soon from both bands and they both appear to have hit a second career prime if there ever was one.

-Reggie Edwards

Click here for complete galleries of Stryper and Queensryche

Pre-show interview with Queensryche singer Todd La Torre: